There’s no question that good shoes are a vital part of everyday comfort. But some research suggests that shoes may be doing us more harm than harm and it is far better to go barefoot. Check this out:
- A 2006 study found that shoes may increase stresses on the knee and ankle, and suggested that adults with osteoarthritis may benefit from walking barefoot.
- A 1992 correlational study also found that children who wore shoes were three times more likely to have flat feet than those who did not, and suggested that wearing shoes in early childhood can be detrimental to the longitudinal arch of the foot.
- A 1991 review article found that barefoot walking supported optimum foot development, and the best use of shoes are to protect the foot from injury rather than for correction of problems.
Tim is going to test the theory that barefooting is optimal for foot health with his new Vibram Five Fingers, a shoe that offers “the exhilarating joy of going barefoot with the protection and sure-footed grip of a Vibram® sole.” Tim wrote about these shoes a while back and was finally able to buy a pair yesterday at the REI in Austin.
After purchase, Tim wore these funning looking shoes all afternoon then took them for an evening walk around the neighborhood. I noticed that his gait had changed – he seemed to be walking more upright and deliberate, without the usual sway he has in his shoulders. Tim’s first impressions:
“They’re very comfortable to walk in, but my feet became tired over the course of the walk. This morning, the outside of my left foot feels tired, like I’ve been using weird muscles. Calves were also differently tired. But otherwise they felt good, and there was no chaffing or rubbing between my toes. I like that they’re very light. I like them. They are funning looking.”
I didn’t get a pair for myself, but after seeing Tim look so comfortable in his, I’m tempted. People who have been wearing them consistently for a few months also have good things to say:
I love running a quick 5k loop through my neighborhood in the Vibram Five Fingers…It is a joy to run on dirt or grass whilst wearing these. –Peter
Five Fingers have helped me be a kid again: as a kid, I never wore shoes, preferring always to be barefoot everywhere. Even today, I rarely wear shoes, preferring Birkenstock sandals in the summer or clogs in the winter (or just wearing flip-flops). Five Fingers are great in that they allow me to do all sorts of active things outside, no matter what the surface while still protecting my feet against wayward sharp objects on the ground. –Justin
After five months of wearing vibram’s fivefingers footwear pretty steadily anywheres indoors over the winter, and now again finally outdoors, a few things have happened: my gait has improved, but in particular i don’t like wearing shoes anymore – even sneakers. They feel – funny. And what’s weirder still – heavy. –MC
It will be interesting to see how Tim’s Five Fingers fare in the longer term, especially in the cold England winter. Stay tuned… I (or Tim) will be back with a longer review in a few months.